Current Price: $50 from amazon.com
Build Quality (6.5/10): The HD428 is a fully circumaural headphone designed to be light and versatile. It does not fold or collapse and most of the structure is made from slightly cheap-feeling plastics. The pleather covering the pads is very thin and develops cracks with time. The thin and rubbery single-sided cord is also disappointing but, at the very least, has better strain relief than the HD2*8-series cabling.
Comfort (9/10): The inner pad diameter of the HD428 is quite large and the headphones clamp very loosely. The pads aren’t as soft as those of the similarly-priced Philips SHO9560 or Maxell DHP-II but are not uncomfortable and stay cool longer than tighter-fitting circumaurals.
Isolation (7/10): The loose clamp and harder-than-average pads of the HD428 limit isolation somewhat but it is still mostly sufficient for portable use. Leakage is low.
Sound (7.5/10): While Sennheiser is often said to have a warm and laid-back house sound, the signature is definitely not consistent across the more budget-oriented models in the lineup. The HD428 clearly pursues a more neutral and accurate sound than similarly-priced sets from the more portable PX- and HD2- lines. The biggest problem with the headphone is mediocre sub-bass extension. The headphones aren’t lacking notably in bass response and have enough bass overall to provide moderate impact and decent bass body; however, depth and rumble are seriously understated next to the similarly-priced Maxell DHP-II and Sennheiser’s own PX100-II. Other than that, the low end of the HD428 is clean, punchy, and non-intrusive. It lacks just a bit of control and sounds very slightly boomy compared to the tight-and-fast PX200-II but still has a leg up in accuracy on most of the competition.
The midrange is neutral in tone and strikes a very good balance of smoothness, detail, and clarity. The HD428 lacks a bit of the lush softness that makes the mids of the Maxell DHP-II so pleasant, sounding leaner and more accurate, albeit slightly grainier. It has better clarity than just about anything else in the price bracket and impresses consistently with its overall resolution. The balance of the headphone is also very good although there is some merit in calling the sound mid-centric. The smoothness is retained up into the treble, which is just a tad laid-back compared to the midrange. Treble clarity and detail are excellent and there is plenty of sparkle and crispness. While treble quantity is diminished slightly compared to the PX200-II and ATH-SQ5, the sound is still airy and open. Top-end extension is good as well and the presentation is wide and very well-separated. Though soundstage depth is only average and the headphones tend to distance the listener from the music, for a $50 headphone the presentation is surprisingly uncongested and convincing. Interestingly, the HD428 does improve a little with amplification, especially when it comes to bass control; however, as usual, I cannot recommend buying a dedicated amp for a mid-range portable headphone.
Value (9/10): While other similarly-priced, high value-for-money sets such as the Philips SHO9560 are functionality powerhouses with average sound quality, Sennheiser’s HD428 has different priorities. Neutral, extremely clear, reasonably balanced, and surprisingly accurate, the HD428 is a very good mid-range headphone that acts to extend Sennheiser’s already-formidable presence in the price tier. It is also lightweight, comfortable, and moderately isolating – enough so to be used as an everyday go-to set for those who don’t mind its size and mediocre sub-bass presence. Above all, the HD428 offers a reasonably-priced alternative to the DJ-and studio-oriented circumaurals currently popular among those seeking a full-size-come-portable solution.
Frequency Response: 18-22,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ω
Sensitivity: 110 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 4.27ft (1.3m), single-sided; Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: N/A